We have lost another of our giants, the drummer, composer and bandleader Max Roach. I consider myself fortunate to have seen him many years ago in Lexington with his quartet, which included saxophonist Odean Pope and in Louisville, where he performed a solo set and accompanied his daughter Maxine Roach in her ensemble, the Uptown String Quartet. Roach was a founding father of bebop, a strong voice for civil rights and one whose musical endeavors included a wide variety of settings, including the percussion ensemble M'Boom. His energy, his precision and his dignity were always present.
Vocalist Kurt Elling has graced the cover of DownBeat (August 2007), won award after award and gave a superb performance to a packed house at the Jazz Factory on Friday, June 15. Accompanied by his working group of pianist/arranger Laurence Hobgood, bassist Rob Amster and drummer Kobie Watkins, Elling concentrated on songs from his 2007 release Nightmoves, his first Concord release. Elling brought his sophisticated and ultrahip delivery to standards such as "My Foolish Heart" and "Nature Boy," while giving new life to the Guess Who's already jazzy "Undun." His approach is frequently highly literary, as demonstrated by his and Amster's adaptation of Theodore Roethke's "The Waking," and his performance of Fred Hersch's music to Walt Whitman's "The Sleepers." A standout was his amazing rendition of a lengthy Jack Kerouac excerpt featuring Dean Moriarty ("Cowboy Neal [Cassady] at the wheel") digging a performance by George Shearing in a Chicago nightclub. If there was a lull in his performance, it came in an overly long segment in the second set, during which Elling used lines from a Kenneth Rexroth poem about animals to encourage the musicians to improvise. This was followed by "A New Body and Soul," which featured the singer's vocalese lyric to the song as inspired by a Dexter Gordon tenor solo. The encore, the Frank Sinatra showcase "In the Wee Small Hours," was beautifully rendered with just the tender accompaniment of Hobgood. Elling's star has been rising for several years, now and his performance at the Jazz Factory offered first-hand evidence of why this is so.
On Friday, July 20, the Jazz Factory's Late Night Salon celebrated its first anniversary in grand style. This series has included a wide range of artists - not all from the jazz world - since its inception. Running late, I missed both Jamie Barnes and the Commonwealth, but arrived in time for Ut Gret's set. Led by Joee Conroy, the first two pieces sounded like European art songs, while the third featured Conroy on guitar effects and the band engaging in organized chaos. The fourth piece included a tar (a large tambourine-like hand drum without the jingles), guitar, piano clarinet and dancer Ruric Amari in a piece that ventured from exotic to a Flamenco "Turn on your Lovelight" segment before closing with "My Old Kentucky Home." Pink Floyd and John Coltrane coexist comfortably in Ut Gret's world, as demonstrated by the band's incredible versions of "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "Olé." If you have not yet seen Ut Gret, see the "On the Horizon" segment below for a fascinating show.
Between sets, as if the heat were not already bad enough this summer, the Phoenix Collective performed outside the club, with Diga or M'Boom style percussion and occasional flutes setting up the rhythms for these fire dancers. Back inside, Squeeze-bot, one of keyboard player Todd Hildreth's ensembles, performed a mixture of music that juxtaposed Keith Jarrett's catchy "The Windup" with the Aerosmith hit "Walk this Way," during which the musicians appeared too serious to have been having as much fun as they must have been. The quirky instrumentation included Hildreth's accordion and Jason Tiemann's "toy" drum set.
After watching another round of flame dancing, I returned indoors for the closing set of the evening, featuring Liberation Prophecy's "Carla Bley meets Frank Zappa and Charles Mingus" little big band to the stage. Featuring leader Jacob Duncan, pianist Hildreth and drummer Tiemann, among others, the group showed why it has been featured in New York City as well as locally and regionally, with music ranging from an invocational opening to the closing suite, "Somnambulist in America."
Ut Gret performs with innovative guitarist Eugene Chadbourne and drummer Jimmy Carl Black ("the Indian of the group," that group being the original Mothers of Invention) on September 9th at Uncle Pleasant's, 2126 S. Preston Street (502-634-4147). Ut Gret will probably go on around 8 p.m. and plans a set including music by Frank Zappa and Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine). Black and Chadbourne have a long history of collaborations, so this should be a most intriguing evening.
The third annual Adelante Latin Jazz Festival takes place from September 21-29 at the Jazz Factory (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992‑3242; www.jazzfactory.us). As if it were not enough that there will be over a week's worth of world-class music presented here, club owner Ken Shapero has generously offered to help support the work of the Adelante Hispanic Achievers, Inc. This is a nonprofit organization formed "to provide opportunities for Hispanic youth and their families to gain the skills and knowledge to function cross-culturally and to contribute to society as informed and pro-active citizens." [from the group's in-development web page]
The opening night, Saturday, September 22, features the return of the exciting pianist Chuchito Valdés. Although the Jazz Factory is usually dark on Sundays, this year marks the return of the popular Rooftop Latin Dance Sunday from 7-11 p.m., on the 23rd, featuring Hector Santiago and Salsa Rhythms, his Latin dance band.
On Tuesday, September 25, the University of Louisville Latin Jazz Ensemble performs; the following night showcases Louisville's Al Sur for a "Night of Flamenco." The featured band Thursday, September 27, is Big Maracas from Lexington, "a large collective of talented musicians, including noted visual artist Enrique Gonzalez, who play traditional Latin dance music that dabbles in a variety of domestic and worldly styles in the vein of Tito Puente and Buena Vista Social Club." [from a press release on their appearance at the Dame in Lexington].
The grand finale takes place over two nights, as pianist and composer, Omar Sosa, the award‑winning Cuban musician, (now living in Barcelona, Spain) plays Friday, September 28 and Rio de Janeiro‑born and Seattle‑based pianist, flutist and composer, Jovino Santos Neto, performs on Saturday, September 29. Sosa has just released Promise (Skip Records LC 10482), live in Hamburg, Germany in 2006, which is a worthy followup to last year's Live a FIP (World Village 479019), live in Paris, France in 2005. Both of these concert recordings show the excitement which Sosa creates with his unique world-spanning musical vision. He utilizes Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz voicings and top musicians to envelop the audience in multihued explorations. Neto's 2006 release Roda Carioca (Rio Circle) (Adventure Music AM 1023) finds him returning to his hometown of Rio de Janeiro for a reunion with musical friends including the great Hermeto Pascoal. Most of the songs are by Neto, who mixes Bach inspirations with the melodies and rhythms of Brazil to convey a mixture of samba and swing. His work is trio-based, with many guests and his closing night appearance here should add new energy to the music heard on this CD.
In his all-too-infrequent Louisville performances, Pat Metheny has performed with the sometimes pop-inflected Pat Metheny Group. He returns to Louisville on November 5, heading a trio featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez. The performance will be at the Brown Theatre, with tickets available through the Kentucky Center Box Office; the on‑sale date is September 15th. Louisvillians are fortunate to have a chance to Metheny in a trio setting and if there is any justice, this should be a sellout. Stay tuned for more details.
The Jazz Factory (815 W. Market St. in The Glassworks, 502-992‑3242) always has a complete and updated schedule, with more details, at the website: www.jazzfactory.us. The Adelante Latin Jazz Festival at the club is featured above. Other highlights (my listing is subjective and omission of an act is due to space and time limitations, not quality judgments) include Friday, September 7: The Pete Zimmer Quartet with the great young trumpeter Jeremy Pelt; Saturday, September 8: New York jazz pianist and vocalist Rick DellaRatta performs two shows this evening to benefit The Arcadia Community Center; Thursday, September 13: The Zach Brock Group; Friday‑Saturday, September 14 -15: The Ryan Cohan Quartet; Friday, October 5: Eric Person and Meta‑Four. The Jazz Factory presents fine jazz every night, Tuesday through Saturday, with early specials, a revamped menu and an eclectic mix of acts Friday and Saturday nights after the second jazz set, for the Late Night Salon series.
The Seelbach Jazz Bar, (500 S. Fourth Street, 502-585‑3200), features vibraphonist and occasional pianist Dick Sisto, who always provides excellent mainstream jazz, frequently with guest artists joining him.
The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317‑253‑4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com), presents: The Bad Plus on September 22 and Charlie Hunter on September 28-29. These are in addition to the nightly offerings of local and regional jazz; check the website for the full schedule.
The September schedule for The Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, 318 East Eighth St. (513-241‑WISP), includes Wednesday night performances by the Blue Wisp Big Band, piano trios on Thursday nights and weekend visitors. Although details were not available at deadline time, the "Midpoint Music Festival" will take place September 27-29. For additional information, go to www.bluewisp.net. Note: this is a new site.
Important Note:For almost as long as I have written this column, I have recommended that you sign up for "The Jazz E‑News." However, at this writing, this service has been discontinued. The Louisville Jazz Society is in the process of revamping its website (www.louisvillejazz.org) and plans to offer a new means to disseminate news of live performances locally. In any event, there are so many opportunities to hear live jazz that it is both impossible for me to try to provide a complete listing here and it would be duplicative of the weekly listings in the Courier-Journal and LEO and the Louisville Music News' monthly music listings, in both the print and online editions (www.louisvillemusicnews.net).
Last year I initiated an occasional feature which I dubbed "Eighth Notes," in an attempt to survey new releases with more than just "So and so has a new release," but with less detail than a track-by-track detailed analysis. Without further ado, here is the latest installment.
David Murray Black Saint Quartet, featuring Cassandra Wilson: Sacred Ground (Justin Time JUST-204-2)When was the last time you heard progressive jazz musicians play and sing a blues with lyrics inspired by classic Greco-Roman mythology . . . and pull it off? Guest artist Cassandra Wilson, no stranger to updating the blues, "name-checks" her namesake, the doomed prophetess Cassandra, as well as Hecuba and Apollo, in the stunning "The Prophet of Doom," which closes out this remarkable new recording by the multitalented David Murray. Heard here on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Murray leads pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Andrew Cyrille through 65 minutes of music which successfully merges the avant-garde with the accessible. Ishmael Reed, the noted author whose darkly comic vision created such works as Yellow Back Radio Broke Down, Flight to Canada and others, here provides the politically and socially moving lyrics to the opening title track and the closing "The Prophet of Doom." The rest of the album is a tour de force of instrumental prowess and further secures Murray's reputation as an innovative composer and musician whose playing, like that of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, can evoke such disparate players as Ben Webster and John Coltrane while remaining true to his own muse.
Mark Egan: As We Speak(Wavetone WT-8640) Mark Egan has appeared with Larry Coryell here in Louisville and was for many years the bassist for the Pat Metheny Group, in which this session's drummer, Danny Gottlieb, was also featured. Add to this strong duo the remarkable guitar work of John Abercrombie and you have the makings of a superb recording. With the exception of "Alone Together," all of the compositions on this two-CD set are by Egan, either by himself or in collaboration with Abercrombie and Gottlieb. The opening Egan tune, "Spirals," is low-key but intense, while his "Shade and Shadows" is fast and edgy. The short closing piece, "Summer Sand," co-composed by all, is a sweet and gentle conclusion to two CDs-worth of topnotch electric jazz. Fans of Abercrombie's work with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette in the Gateway Trio will find much to enjoy here.
NEW FEATURE: LOCAL JAZZ CONTACTS
With two eight‑year‑olds, it's hard to get out as much as I would like to hear music. As a result, picking and choosing which performances to catch sometimes require that I postpone seeing some of the local musicians and singers in order to not miss the one-night-stands from out-of-town artists. Invariably, I feel guilty, so in an effort to assuage my guilt and, more positively, to provide more exposure to our community of great local jazz performers, I am initiating this feature containing website and e-mail contact information. I am only including those artists who have given their permission to me; some have indicated a preference for website listing only; others have only e-mail addresses. If you wish to be included, drop a line to me with your permission and preferences, at email@example.com. I reserve the right to edit and to exclude those whose connection to jazz is, in my opinion, tenuous; and this feature may end up online if it begins to take up too much space in print.
BOBBY FALK: www.myspace/bobbyfalk.com, drummer and composer Bobby Falk;
WALKER & KAYS: www.walkerandkays.com, singer Jeanette Kays and guitarist Greg Walker;
JENNIFER LAULETTA: www.jenniferlauletta.com, singer Jennifer Lauletta;
JEFF SHERMAN: firstname.lastname@example.org, guitarist Jeff Sherman;
RON JONES: www.ronjonesquartet.com, email@example.com, saxophonist Ron Jones;
STEVE CREWS: www.jazzcrews.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, pianist Steve Crews.
I am always interested in your comments. Contact me at email@example.com.